TheBackPacker June 12, 2016 1

Lightweight Backpacking doesn’t have to be expensive

If you are new to the outdoor backpacking scene you will quickly learn that gear can be expensive. Especially lightweight gear. One of the statements I get from new people I take out in the backcountry is “What if I need it”? So they tend to carry the kitchen sink until there first 15 mile hike and 2,000 feet elevation gain. The second statement I get when they decide to start really thinking about weight is: “That’s really expensive”.

It’s easy to get sucked into the hype of lightweight gear. Technology and good marketing can lead a new person to drop some serious cash building a lightweight system.

First, let’s define “lightweight”. Depending on weather and the time you expect to backpack in the wilderness, this can vary. I like to say it’s between 15 and 25 lbs. On a typical 2 day trip 23 lbs is usually my total pack weight. I like to cook gourmet :-). Having defined the weight, now how to we lighten the load on the cheap?

First, it’s the Big 4. Pack, Shelter, Pad, and Bag. This is where you can drop some big $$$. So here are my tips, or examples of how I did it on the cheap and still had quality gear.

The Pack:

I use the GoLite Jam 35L Pack. (GoLite is out of business however) I’ve had this pack for 5 years and it’s well tested. At $119.00 you can’t beat the price nor the weight.
It weighs in at 1 lb 11 oz. | 770 g


I use the Globe Skimmer Ultralite (10×12) Tarp by Equinox. It weighs in at 18 ounces and it has always kept me dry. The cost is $129.00 compared to one person tents that run well above $200 bucks. I would also recommend trying the 8×10 tarp for only $92.00 to save some money and weight.

Sleeping Bag

I totally recommend Marmot Aspen 40° F Minimalist Sleeping Bag for a Spring, Summer, and early Fall bag. At a total price of $70.00 and a weight of only 1 lbs 6oz you can’t go wrong. I did a review of this bag a few years ago with amazing feedback. They also make a 15 degree bag that is just as cheap and good. You can only find this bag at Dicks Sporting Goods.


Two choices here: I use either the Thermarest Pro Lite Plus (small) for $89.00. Weighs in at 150z.

Or go to Walmart and buy the J Fit Extra Thick Pilates Pad and pay only $19.00 bucks. Cut in half and you have a pad that weighs 140z. I use this pad in Warmer Spring, Summer, and Early Fall.

This makes you total pack weight for the Big 4 (assuming you go the Walmart Pad way) a little over 4 lbs. That also makes your total cost (assuming you go the Walmart Pad way) $337.00 bucks for the Big 4.

I dare you to beat THAT!!!